Friday, February 04, 2005


Camper Van Beethoven- Key Lime Pie

I never thought of these guys as a novelty act, not even once- I think that I’ve heard ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ a grand total of maybe three times. This record got the band a little bit of notice because of their ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ cover, which is how I was hipped to them back in like ninth grade.
Man, is this record ever strong, even still. Very moody, both with and without the violin- there’s very little in the way of goofiness (you’d think that a song called ‘When I Win The Lottery’ would be a little bit sillier- their restraint is evident, but it works.) Even though more than 75% of the songs would be good singles, everything hangs together as an album very well (witness the powerhouse lineup of songs 2-6: Jack Ruby, Sweethearts, When I Win The Lottery, (I Was Born In A) Laundromat and Borderline are all potential hits. Jesus, in retrospect, why wasn’t this record pushed harder?) I find myself coming back to this one every couple of months, especially on car trips.

MIX TAPE: The Humid Press Of Days

Johnny Cash- Hello, I’m Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash- American Recordings

Rick Rubin is a smart man. Before he released Mr. Cash’s records on his American imprint, country was out, totally out. Sure, there was that whole No Depression/alt-country thing going on, but we’re not talking about that…just the real deal (at least for the time being- there is a Wilco album in my collection.) Ten years ago country was not to be discussed- the general association made when the word was mentioned was like Garth Brooks, tales of woe, the whole deal. Johnny Cash’s name could be mentioned to the hipster sect and not totally be scoffed at- Boy Named Sue was/is well regarded, and Ring of Fire was covered by Social Distortion back in the late eighties. Still, though, that was it.
A quick scan of ‘Hello, I’m Johnny Cash’ (a record which I know I didn’t buy- how the hell did it get into my CD stacks, anyway?) shows why the genre was shunned by hipsters, to a certain degree- the songs are good, and the writing is solid, but the production is pretty tacky. Everything sounds like it’s been produced for a variety show- even with a fully developed sense of irony, a lot of the record sounds like ‘Hee Haw’ or something. Yikes.
Enter the Rubin. ‘American Recordings’ got the ball rolling. Instead of relying on studio gimmickry, Cash sings and accompanies himself on guitar, and that’s it. The record is sparse and showcases Cash’s singing voice, which sounds a little bit more gravelly and a little less cutesy than on the earlier stuff (production and age both, I suspect.) A few key covers didn’t hurt, either.(Cash covering Danzig? All RIGHT!)This album, I remember, got Cash a lot of press, triumphant comeback, blah blah blah. It got people talking about him again.


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